Tag Archives: Marie Engen

Sept 11: Best from the blogosphere

As the leaves change colours and we gear up for the busy fall and winter season, it’s time to check in on what some of our favourite personal finance writers have been discussing this summer.

With the announcement that CIBC has gobbled up PC Financial which will be rebranded as CIBC Simplii Financial on November 1st, Stephen Weyman says on Howtosavemoney.ca that it will be banking as usual in the short term but you can expect CIBC to sneak in a few fees here and there to make sure they’re profitable and try to cut costs where they can.

On Boomer & Echo, Marie Engen offers 25 money saving tips. A couple of my favourites are:

  • Turn off the “heat dry” on your dishwasher. Open the door when the cycle is done and let the dishes air dry.
  • Learn some sewing basics so you can make minor repairs and alterations to your clothing – hem your pants and skirts, sew on a button, sew up a torn seam, put in a new zipper.
  • Buy some time. Set aside the purchase you are considering for a few hours (or a day or two) before you decide whether to buy it. Often you may decide you can easily live without it.

Bridget Casey (Money After Graduation) has recently welcomed a new daughter and she is already thinking about saving for her college education. She writes about the importance of setting up your child’s Registered Educational Savings Plan as a trust so it will be covered by the Canada Deposit Insurance Corporation in the event of financial institution failure up to $100,000 per account.

Retire Happy’s Jim Yih writes a thoughtful piece on Minimizing Your Old Age Security Clawback. The maximum monthly OAS benefit in 2017 is $578.53 ($6,942.36 annually). If you earn between $74,788 and $121,070/year the OAS benefit will be clawed back. He explains that with pension splitting, spouses can give up to 50% of their pension income to their spouse for tax splitting purposes. This is a very effective way to reduce income if you are close to the OAS clawback threshold.

When Sean Cooper, author of Burn Your Mortgage paid off his mortgage, he promised himself he’d stop putting off travel. His first major trip was to San Francisco this summer. Nevertheless, he still travelled frugally booking his $700 roundtrip flight through PC Travel. He also got from the airport to downtown on Bay area rapid transit for less than $10. In San Diego, he opted for a four-bed mixed dorm room at USA Hostels for less than $60 a night as opposed to $200/night in a hotel.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

June 5: Best from the blogosphere

This week it’s back to basics with some of our favourite bloggers.

On HowToSaveMoney.ca Heather Clarke shares Budget Home Decorating Ideas. She says you can often make a “knock off” of a pricey designer item and a little bit of spray paint goes a long way. She also reminds us that there are some hidden gems at the dollar store.

Rona Birenbaum, a financial planner at Caring for Clients offers 5 reasons why you should negotiate your severance package. She notes that there may well be more money and protection available to you, but only if you ask. Also, she says the cost of legal advice is tax deductible.

In Jim Yih’s retirement seminars, even participants close to age 65 are often concerned that they have not saved enough for retirement. His Advice for Baby Boomers who are not ready for retirement is to get a plan, revise their retirement date and think about a phased retirement. He also tells readers to focus on their cash flow and consider finding another job if they do not love what they currently do.

Boomer & Echo’s Marie Engen suggests Frugal Summer Fun For Canada’s 150th Birthday. For example, Parks Canada is offering free admission to all national parks, historic sites and marine conservation areas for the entire year. If you haven’t got your Discovery pass yet, you can order one online, or you can pick one up on arrival at any Parks Canada location.

And finally, Tom Drake answers the question What Is the CPP Death Benefit and Who Should Apply? Typically the death benefit is paid to the estate of the deceased, but where he/she does not have an estate, it can go to one of the following three entities:

  1. Whoever paid for the deceased’s funeral expenses. The death benefit is mainly designed to offset funeral expenses, so it makes sense that it will be paid out to the person or institution who covers these costs.
  2. Surviving partner: The spouse or common-law partner left behind by the deceased can also apply for, and receive, the CPP death benefit.
  3. Next of kin: Finally, if the other two circumstances aren’t met, the deceased’s next of kin can apply for the death benefit.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Written by Sheryl Smolkin
Sheryl Smolkin LLB., LLM is a retired pension lawyer and President of Sheryl Smolkin & Associates Ltd. For over a decade, she has enjoyed a successful encore career as a freelance writer specializing in retirement, employee benefits and workplace issues. Sheryl and her husband Joel are empty-nesters, residing in Toronto with their cockapoo Rufus.

Feb 06: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

One issue on our radar this week of concern to many Canadians is the possible change to the deductibility of health and dental care insurance premiums for tax purposes in the upcoming 2017 budget. Currently these premiums are not a taxable benefit if they are paid for by your employer and they are a deductible medical expense for individuals purchasing private plans to supplement provincial medicare benefits.

On December 2, 2016 a National Post article noted that the Federal Liberals are eyeing a tax on private health and dental plans, a move that would take in about $2.9B. Journalist John Ivison reported that proponents of eliminating the credit argue that those with lower incomes but without private health plans are subsidizing those with employee-sponsored coverage. On the other hand, he said there is a strong economic case for encouraging employers to provide health coverage for employees.

Later in the same month, a coalition of health care service providers warned of the potential negative implications of taxing the premiums paid on employer-provided health and dental benefits. Ondina Love, CEO of the Canadian Dental Hygienists Association said, “When benefits were subject to provincial income tax in Quebec in 1993, almost 20% of employers dropped their coverage, including up to 50% of small employers. This loss of coverage can significantly impact the lowest-paid employees who will have trouble paying for drugs, dental and needed health care out of pocket.”

And now a Conference Board of Canada report commissioned by the Canadian Dental Association calculates that millions of Canadians will each pay at least $1,000 more if Ottawa taxes health and dental plans . And according to the National Post, the potential exists for a massive political backlash. The Canadian Dental Association reports that 50,000 protest emails have already been sent to local MPs and Bill Morneau, the finance minister, through its donttaxmyhealthbenefits.ca online petition.

Let’s hope that Prime Minister Trudeau’s comments on February 2nd suggesting that his government doesn’t plan to tax employee health and dental plans as reported in Benefits Canada will put this issue to bed once and for all for the benefit of all Canadians.

In another health-care related story this week, Marie Engen at Boomer and Echo makes The Case For A Universal Canadian Drug Program. She correctly says that prescription drug coverage in Canada varies widely depending on where you live, your health status, your income, and your age. Right now, each province has its own pharmacare program and there is no consistency. A universal prescription drug plan could not only reduce total spending. It would also cover everyone at an affordable price.

Finally, in a post on Retire Happy, Sean Cooper tackles the question  Should You Take a Deferred Pension or the Commuted Value? He says many people go to their investment advisors to seek assistance on deciding what to do with their pension. But there is a clear conflict of interest.  “Your advisor can be a good source of information for deciding which funds to invest the commuted value in should you decide to take it, but at the end of the day the decision should be yours and yours alone,” he concludes.


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Nov 7: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Halloween is over, Remembrance Day is this week and the stores are starting to look a lot like Christmas. But keep the end game is sight and don’t be distracted by advertising for the latest hardware or fashions that may blow your budget out of the water.

On Retire Happy, Sarah Milton writes about “How to stick with your financial goals.” She says what makes the difference between success and stalling comes down to three things: knowing what you want; chasing your fears and building a tribe.

Mint’s blog Personal Finance Guide to Setting Goals and Sticking to Them notes that financial planning is all about goals. There are two islands: what you have and what you want. The bridge between the two is your personal finance budget. Getting to where you want to be requires vision, planning and discipline – the vision to know what you want, a plan to get there and the discipline to stick with your plan.

Big Cajun Man, author of the Canadian Personal Finance Blog says We Invest the Way We Vote. In both cases, we make a hurried, uninformed decision after being unduly influenced by people who have their own agenda on why they want you to do it. Typically the decision may even be made at the last-minute, using your “gut” to decide. Let’s hope our US friends make rational decisions when they go to the polls this week!

When Do You Stop Helping Your Adult Children? Marie Engen questions on Boomer & Echo. She answers, “If your adult children are asking for something, whether it’s babysitting services, money, or something else and you need to say no, say it clearly. Don’t hint around that you’re busy or you’ve had a lot of expenses lately.”

And finally, with the dropping temperatures and snow falling already in parts of the country, you may be planning a warm weather get away. Mark Seed at my Own Advisor has some great hints for how to save and splurge on a vacation. He suggests skyscanner and Chris Myden’s suite of sites for flight deals. And I bet you didn’t know you can get great deals on car rentals from Costco’s web site!


Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Oct 3: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

The leaves are turning and the weather is changing. As fall visits us briefly before the long cold winter sets in, it’s time to re-visit recent posts from some of our favourite personal finance writers.

On Boomer and Echo, Marie Engen offers 5 Ways To Stretch Your Retirement Dollars. My favourite is to sign up for senior discounts. In Calgary an annual transit pass for seniors is just $95. BC Ferries gives a 50% discount on passenger fares (Monday to Thursday, except holidays). Retailers such as Shoppers Drug Mart have senior discount days. A number of universities and colleges offer free tuition, at least for non-credit courses.

Sara Milton writes on Retire Happy about Financial warning signs: Are you prepared for the worst?. She says before financial disaster hits, there have  usually  been warning signs for some time. Just like on the dashboard of a car, an individual’s financial “check engine” light was lit up like a Christmas tree and, either he/she didn’t notice or  deliberately ignored it in the hope that it would somehow fix itself and switch off.

While investors may be reluctant to sell stocks because the sale will trigger tax inclusions, Pat McKeough reminds us on the Financial Independence Hub thatCapital gains tax is one of the lowest taxes you’ll ever pay. For example, if an investor purchases stock for $1,000 and then sells that stock for $2,000, they have a $1,000 capital gain. Investors pay Canadian capital gains tax on 50% of the capital gain amount. This means that if you earn $1,000 in capital gains, and you are in the highest tax bracket you will pay about $247.65 in Canadian capital gains tax on the $1,000 in gains.

For most young people in college or university student loans are a necessary evil. But they can become a tremendous burden after graduation. How I worked my way through university by Robin Taub on Forward Thinking profiles Corey Barss (age 25) who grew up in Brantford and attended Ryerson University. By saving money while he was in high school and working nearly full-time as a cook and server at the Ryerson campus pub while he was in university, he was able to graduate with only $30,000 in student loans. Even when he got a full-time job he continued work 12 hours/week at the pub in order to become debt free in three years.

And finally, the Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick writes that one of the most important financial literacy lessons young people can learn is how to deal with banks. In Millennials, banks are not your friends his message to students is that banks aren’t your friend, and neither are they your enemy. They’re companies you do business with and that means you have to have to go in prepared to defend your own interests. He says students should look for ways to bank for nothing, and he gives  important factors to consider when evaluating student bank accounts.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jul 11: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

The world was shocked to learn that the UK voted to exit the European Community. Nobody really knows what will mean for investors yet but Robin Levinson King at the Toronto Star suggests four ways Brexit could affect Canadans. They are fewer exports, lower returns, a stronger U.S. dollar and a continuing white hot real estate market if interest rates stay low in this country.

Do you have a special skill set or do you own something that someone else wants? Trade it for something you need writes Marie Engen on Boomer and Echo. Bartering for goods and services instead of paying cash is a concept that is alive and well today. It can also save you a bundle.

For many people, paying off debt is one of life’s biggest challenges. Jessica Moorhouse blogs about four women who will inspire you to crush your debt. For example, Amanda D. from Ottawa paid off $64,000 in seven years. She consolidated all her debt with one bank, negotiated a lower interest rate and accelerated her pay down by doubling monthly payments and making periodic bulk payments.

How to purchase life insurance and what kind you need is a potential minefield for many people. On Money after Graduation, Bridget Eastgaard says buy term life insurance and avoid cash-value life insurance at any cost. That’s because cash value life insurance is much more expensive. Also, even one missed payment can void the policy which means you will lose both your insurance coverage and your premiums paid to date.

And since some of you still may not have planned a vacation for the summer or the balance of this year, take a look at Barry Choi’s blog The cost of travel: How to pick a vacation destination. He says daydream a little bit and pick your destination but be realistic if you can’t afford it or it really doesn’t make sense to go to Thailand in typhoon season. The easiest and most cost effective destinations may be locations where you have friends or family.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

Jun 20: Best from the Blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

After several weeks of “theme” issues it’s time to check in with some of our favourite bloggers to find out what’s on their mind.

On Boomer and Echo, Marie Engen asks the perennial question RRIF Or Annuity? Which One Is Right For You?  She suggests combining both so an annuity covers your basic retirement expenses together with with your CPP, OAS, and any other pension income you may be receiving to give you a guaranteed income stream for life. This allows your RRIF to provide you with investment growth opportunities and easier access to your money for your more enjoyable lifestyle expenses.

Tax Freedom Day 2016 happened June 7th this year. Retire Happy’s Jim Yih says it’s another reason to celebrate summer. He explains where all of your taxes go because once you realize the severity of tax on your lifestyle, it is your job to investigate legitimate ways to reduce your tax bill. “I’ve often said that good tax planning is the foundation to any financial, investment or estate decision,” Yih concludes.

Bridget Eastgaard lives in Calgary where due to the drop in oil prices the rental market is very soft. On her blog Money After Graduation she shares One Simple Shortcut To Put More Money In Your Budget. Her research revealed a similar unit renting for $250 less in her building plus a half-dozen comparable apartments renting nearby for less. She succeeded in lowering her rent by 20%, saving hundreds of dollar a month that will be redirected to accumulating a down payment on a house.

Sean Cooper thinks Millennials Should Save Their Down Payment and Not Rely on the Bank of Mom and Dad. He says by showing your millennial child tough love, you’re teaching your kids a valuable lesson: not everything in life will be handed to them on a silver platter. Just like you did, he says they should to work for it.You won’t be there to help them forever.

And the Big Cajun Man Alan Whitten reminds readers to keep an eye on their bank account to make sure automatic withdrawals are being processed properly on an ongoing basis. When he checked on his son’s RESP recently, he found that TD Bank mysteriously stopped depositing in November of 2015. There has been a problem ticket opened on this issue, and someone will be getting back to him.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

 

Aug 24: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

After several weeks of “theme” issues of Best from the Blogosphere, for the next several weeks we will get back to basics and check out what our perennial favourites have been writing about lately.

On Boomer & Echo, Marie Engen discusses 3 financial mistakes to avoid. They are buying too much home; raiding your RRSP; and, putting your child’s needs ahead of your retirement.

Retire Happy’s Sarah Milton describes Using the Lifelong Learning Plan. The LLP is a program that allows Canadian residents to borrow up to $20,000 from their RRSPs in order to cover the costs of a full-time further education program for themselves, their common-law partner or spouse. If the Harper government is re-elected, they have promised to raise this amount to $35,000.

The Frugal Trader gives a Financial Freedom Update on Million Dollar Journey. He says in the year since he has reached the million dollar net worth milestone it feels great but nothing has really changed. His family has recently decided to become a single income family and with tight fiscal management they are able to live on one government salary. 

Blonde on a Budget Cait Flanders moved from Vancouver to Victoria recently and she has established a final de-cluttering challenge for herself. Last year she purged 43% of her belongings in one month to embrace a minimalist lifestyle. She has given herself 20 days to see how much more stuff she can get rid of when she unpacks her moving boxes.

Finally, Michael James on money says Your Retirement Spending Plan is Critical. While working, if you don’t like the plan your financial advisor has set up for you, you can find a new advisor and make up for past mistakes. But if your advisor puts you on a bad retirement spending plan, by the time you figure out there is a problem, there’s little you can do. other than cut spending.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.

May 25: Best from the blogosphere

By Sheryl Smolkin

Due to the holiday Monday (yeah!) and other days away from my desk for random reasons, this issue of Best from the Blogosphere is being written super early. So, on no particular theme we present some great content from the last several weeks.

The Apple watch has received a bad tap from many reviewers, but Retired Syd reports on Retirement: A Full-Time Job that the device works for her. She likes being able to do all sorts of things without digging in her purse for her iPhone like paying for coffee; listening to music; getting directions from Siri; dictating error-free texts; and just lifting her arm to display her boarding pass.

In a guest post on the Financial Independence Hub, Michael Drak writes about one thing he wishes his father had taught him. While he learned about the need for working hard, saving and eliminating debt as quickly as possible, his Dad didn’t teach him about the important concept of Findependence (financial independence) and how it could positively impact his life once it was achieved.

Freedom Thirty-Five is authored by a nameless late-twenties male living in Metro Vancouver. He recently wrote about succumbing to lifestyle inflation. It seems he’s ahead of schedule by one year to reach financial freedom by his 35th birthday. So he has decided to succumb to lifestyle inflation and increase his food expenses from $100 to $150/month; eating out from $25 to $50/month and phone and entertainment from $75 to $100/month. Could you get by on these modest amounts?

Boomer & Echo blogger Marie Engen says unless there is room for occasionally splurging in your budget, becoming too frugal can ultimately undermine your budgeting efforts. Don’t banish nice things from your life. Occasional guilt-free splurges can help you stay on budget if they don’t detract from your other goals. When you don’t feel deprived you will likely find it a lot easier to stick to the plan.

And finally, on Brighter Life, I wrote a piece about Five smart ways to use your tax refund. You can start an emergency fund; top up your RRSP; pay down credit card debt; pay down your mortgage; or, open a Registered Educational Savings Plan for your child.

Do you follow blogs with terrific ideas for saving money that haven’t been mentioned in our weekly “Best from the blogosphere?” Share the information with us on http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card.